11 January 1889
(Before H.J. Bicknell, Esq., Resident Magistrate.)
(Before H.J. Bicknell, Esq., Resident Magistrate.)
A Magisterial investigation was held on Thursday, the 10th instant in the Magistrate’s Room into the charge of murder against Benjamin Ranger, for taking the life of Estina Crawford. The body was found about 5.50 a.m. on the 27th December.
Sergt.-Major DaCosta of Old Harbour was the first witness examined. He stated: I am Segt.-Major of Constabulary, stationed at Old Harbour. It was reported to me that a dead body had been found on the Old Harbour Road. I went and found, a few chains from the 7th milestone, the body of a woman lying in the water table on the side of the road. The body was lying on its left side with the head to the west. I found the throat cut from ear to ear. I left the body in charge of a constable, went to Old Harbour and telegraphed to the Inspector. A medical examination was made, the same day. I made a further examination of the spot on the same day. I found some stones tipped with blood. I found some coral beads and a tooth. At the head of the deceased was lying a piece of board with some blood on it. A foot or two from the body I found a broken string of beads which resembled those previously found. He thought there must have been a struggle, as the string of beads was broken. He cut off a piece of the woman’s petticoat and jacket and circulated them for identification in the parish of Clarendon. On Saturday night he had verbal information that a woman was seen driving in a cart with the prisoner and another woman, Mary E. Richards, a witness. He took a bus after the information received from this witness, and arrested the prisoner on Sunday afternoon, the 30th Dec., at the Vere Race Course. Prisoner was told that he was arrested on suspicion of having murdered the woman. He did not know the name of the woman at that time. He asked prisoner where was the woman who drove in the cart with him. Prison said he had left her in town. He warned him that anything he might say would be used against him at the trial. Without being questioned, he stated that the woman’s name was Estina Crawford, of St. David; that she had been living in Port Limon and Colon for about 13 years. He (prisoner) had had (sic) been living with her for about six months. He appeared to have been drinking, but was not drunk. Without being further questioned he went on to say, that he must thank the Longwood people, who had brought him to this pass. As he made these remarks witness took notes. These he proceeded to read as follows:--“Prisoner said he had better have been at sea than come home.” Speaking to a man named Francis Barclay, he said—“I don’t know why I did it; better for me to have stopped at sea.” To a crowd of persons around the bus he said—“I don’t know why I have brought myself to this.” To Constable Solan, in the bus—“Why should I tell a lie, the things shown me belonged to the woman.” (Witness had shown prisoner a piece of the murdered woman’s dress, which prisoner recognized). Prisoner was taken in an omnibus to Old Harbour, and it was in the bus at different times that these statements were made. The arrest was reported to Inspector Ponsonby. The woman was buried in the Strangers Ground, at the Parish Church of Old Harbour. No identification of the remains was obtained previous to the burial. The body was disinterred on the 3rd of January.
Sarah Barclay, Betty Gale, Rosanna Haines, Elizabeth Howell, George Barclay, Leonora Chambers, William Bennett, and Robert Barclay saw the body on exhumation. He took over some bloodstained clothes on the 2nd inst., there were a flannel petticoat and a portion of a dress. I delivered them to Mr. Bowrey myself. (Inspector Ponsonby here put in a letter from Mr. Bowrey, stating that he was unable to be present as he was summoned to Morant Bay. He had not been able to examine the articles sent him). He also sent some coral beads, an earring and other articles, and a piece of board found on the road. Subsequently he took a jacket and a hat, trowsers and shirt, said to belong to prisoner and obtained from the premises where he was arrested. There were what appeared to be faint marks of blood upon all these articles.
Prisoner was arrested in what was said to be his house. The term Race Course is used for the district. A few stones and a little dirt found by me on the road was also sent to the Island Chemist. He noticed signs of a struggle having taken place on the road near where the body was found and the trace of a wheel in the mud which came to a stop at the point. The cart was found at Vere and was in the hands of the police. Two or three coral beads were found in the crevices of the floor of the cart. A small piece of board was also found on the scene of the murder, such as is used to place across a card to sit upon. One of the beads is still in the car. (This was ordered to be removed and preserved, by the Magistrate.)
By Inspector Ponsonby.—The necklace was fastened by a bit of ribbon. If it had been tied behind it was broken in front. The earring shown was given to me by a man named H. Easy. It matches the one sent to Mr. Bowrey.
Constable Elias Duncan was sworn, and stated that the body exhumed was the same body of the woman found dead, Estina Crawford. I saw the body lying upon the road at the seventh mile stone. I saw the body after it had been disinterred; it was the same body. I saw it on the Spanish Town Road. I knew the deceased, but did not recognize her before the arrest of the prisoner, who told me about the deceased. I then remembered that the last time I saw her was in Costa Rica. We were schoolmates in St. Thomas-ye-East about the year 1867, and she must have been about 27 at her death. I last saw her alive in Costa Rica in 1880.
Samuel Thomas, Constable, Old Harbour, was sworn—I was in charge of the body of the murdered woman. I saw the body put into the coffin saw it buried, and dug up the coffin at the disinterment, It was the same body; on the 29th, being in charge of the body. I saw prisoner pass in a cart about 10 o’clock a.m., and asked him to look at the body. He started back as though he was frightened, when he raised the cloth that covered the body, and a woman, Mrs. Reid asked him why he was frightened. The prisoner said nothing, but got into the cart and drove away.
By Inspector Ponsonby.—Prisoner wore a jacket similar to the one he now has on.
Elizabeth Gale, sworn—I know the deceased. I saw her once at the Alley Market about a week before the Christmas. I identified the body dug up at the church yard, as that of Estina Crawford. I am not married. When I saw her she was in company with the prisoner. Prisoner introduced her as the woman he was living with. Prisoner is my brother’s child. My brother is dead. Prisoner had been off the country some ten years, and they thought he was dead. I never saw him since his return, except on this occasion.
Robert Barclay, sworn—I live at Cocoafalls. I am a coppersmith and plumber. I know the prisoner. I live near his mother Mrs. Ranger. On the 27th Dec., I hired a cart and one mule to the prisoner to bring up some things from Old Harbour, as he had just come from sea.
He left in the cart, accompanied by one they called Miss Crawford, on Thursday afternoon. The prisoner drove. There were only those two in the cart. That is my cart outside. Besides the two there was a bundle of grass, and a piece of movable board as a seat. Prisoner returned in the evening of the 29th with the cart and mule. He was then alone. He said he had left Miss Crawford at home sick, in Kingston, and was going back for her in three days time. He said he meant to bring her back by taking the train and getting a bus in Old Harbour. The seat was not brought back with the cart. He brought a big trunk from Kingston. I saw the dead body after it was dug up. It was that of the woman, I saw with the deceased in my cart. I hired the cart to go to Old Harbour. I would not have hired it to go to Spanish Town. Prisoner told me he would not return before Saturday 29th. The hire was 6s. It would have been 8s. to Spanish Town. He did not tell me he was going with the cart to Spanish Town. On Sunday the constable called his attention to spots of blood about the wheel. Prisoner is my sister’s son.
Prisoner asked no questions of the witnesses.
To be continued.